This week in our monitoring of far-right websites so you don’t have to: paranoid conspiracy theories; if you want health care, just be frugal; denial of racism; demonizing immigrants; and yes, it is a Muslim ban.
The wingnut branch of the right has been freaking out over the revelations in Vault 7, the name assigned to WikiLeaks’ latest information dump. Vault 7 purports to show methods used by the CIA to hack electronic devices to gather information; CIA officials have declined to confirm whether what’s been revealed in Vault 7 is true.
The info dump has led to some sensational reporting that the government can spy on ordinary citizens through their smart TVs, iPhones, and more. And no less than a U.S. senator and former presidential candidate, Rand Paul of Kentucky, went on The Alex Jones Show last week to stir up fears of government surveillance.
“It lets the deep state have so much power that every American will ultimately live in fear of their phone conversations being listened to,” Paul told Jones in the interview, posted on Jones’s Infowars website. “And so this is very, very dangerous.”
Now, no one, liberal or conservative, wants to be spied on. But some technology experts say there’s no cause for alarm, even if the info in Vault 7 is legit.
“Nothing in it indicates that the CIA has broken messenger encryption, as Open Whisper Systems, the software organization responsible for [encryption program] Signal, has been quick to point out,” wrote Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky. “The CIA can read messenger communications only if it plants malware on a specific phone or computer; then it can harvest keystrokes and take screenshots. This is not about mass surveillance — something that should bother the vast majority of internet users — but about monitoring specific targets.”
And hacking smart TVs, according to Bershidsky, is possible only if someone comes into your home and attaches a USB device (flash drive) to the TV; there’s no evidence of it being done remotely via the internet. If you’re still concerned about your television’s security, there’s a helpful article from Consumer Reports here. And last we checked, there was no danger of being spied on through cameras in microwave ovens. (Sorry, Kellyanne Conway.)
Paul is a libertarian-leaning Republican who subscribes to even more strict free-market ideology than most of his party, but he doesn’t generally go off the rails. Nonetheless, he has been a frequent guest of Jones, who does go way off the rails, far more than even some other alt-right sources, such as Breitbart.
After his interview with Paul ended, Jones went on a rant that’s almost indecipherable, and it should probably make the senator think twice about associating with him. “The decision has been made under eugenics and globalism and and social engineering to end humanity as we know it, to not have any advances, kill the space program, and … end the species as we know it,” Jones said. “That’s a giant satanic sacrifice.” The people behind it, he said, may be influenced by “genetic disorders” or “some intergalactic attack.”
Yes, this guy gets a U.S. senator to go on his show.
Another topic of Paul’s interview with Jones was the effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Paul, like many members of both parties, doesn’t think much of the replacement plan that’s been put out there. He’s proposed replacing with ACA with something more free-marketish — or with nothing at all.
Also putting his two cents in on the process is David Limbaugh, brother of Rush, whose column is carried on Townhall. Here’s a passage that starts with some fairly mainstream, if questionable, conservative ideas but ends in a jaw-dropping manner: “I am convinced that principles of free market competition must infuse any health care reforms we ultimately adopt. This means eliminating as many regulations as we can, removing barriers to competition across state lines, implementing tort reform, allowing unlimited health savings accounts and somehow disentangling ourselves from a system in which the health care consumer pays only 11 percent of his own health care costs, with the remainder being paid by employers and other third parties. Under the present system, people have no incentive to be prudent and frugal consumers, and providers have no incentive to reduce costs.”
Hmm. Wonder if he’d apply those principles of prudence and frugality to the lifesaving treatments for, say, cancer — just shop around to see if you can save a few hundred thousand dollars. Or make sure you have enough in your health savings account to cover them.
Something else to make your jaw drop: Jesse Lee Peterson, a columnist for World Net Daily, says racism doesn’t exist. His fellow African-Americans, he says, are just angry because their parents didn’t love them.
“Most blacks hate whites,” Peterson wrote. “But they are not ‘racist.’ Rather, they hate whites because they are hateful people. They received no real love from their parents, and they believed a lie (that whites are ‘racist’) to justify their own hatred.”
Peterson extended this theory to our first African-American president. “I believe Barack Obama’s mother hated her mother,” he contended. “His white grandmother had a negative experience with a black person. She would speak of blacks in a way that seemed ‘racist’ to young brainwashed Barack. In reality, she was traumatized.”
Obama did speak of his maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, having a fear of black men because of an experience with an aggressive panhandler who happened to be black. But he has also said he had a wonderful, loving relationship with Dunham, who died just before he was elected president.
"She's the one who taught me about hard work," he said in accepting the presidential nomination in 2008. "She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me."
Demonizing immigrants is another favorite game of the far-right sites. Breitbart frequently carries stories of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, such as one that ran Monday, headlined “Previously Deported Alien, Brother Busted With 200 Pounds of Meth.”
And over at Townhall, there’s a recent column by Katie Kieffer with this lead: “Deal with it, Democrats: illegal immigrants commit crime far more often than legal immigrants.” Stories defending immigrants as actually less likely to commit crimes than the native-born are conflating data on legal immigrants with undocumented ones, she wrote.
But wait — there’s a columnist on the same site who counters Kieffer. Jeff Jacoby is one of a few mainstream conservatives carried on Townhall; he’s syndicated from a home base at The Boston Globe, which the far right undoubtedly considers a source of fake news.
“Decades of research confirm that immigrants to the United States are significantly less likely than native-born citizens to commit serious crimes or be in prison,” Jacoby wrote. “It makes no difference whether immigrants enter the country with or without legal documents. … During the 1990s and 2000s, as the number of illegal immigrants in the United States tripled to nearly 12 million, crime rates nationwide plunged more than 40 percent.”
“Harping on a few atypical examples [of criminal immigrants] amounts to raw demagoguery — the scapegoating of a stigmatized group to incite fear and hatred,” Jacoby continued. He went on to give his own examples of immigrants, some undocumented, who have saved lives — for instance, chasing down the kidnapper of a young girl.
“There are a few shockingly bad apples, yes,” he wrote of the immigrant population. “Vastly more common are the heroes and hard workers who love this country and prove it daily. Diligent, peaceable, grateful, they enrich their communities in ways large and small, and, in so doing, continuously make America great again.”
Most of the far-right sites are big supporters of Donald Trump’s efforts to keep immigrants and even visitors from certain countries out of the U.S. After running into legal trouble with his first travel ban, he issued another one that temporarily banned travel to the U.S. by residents of Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia, exempting those who already hold visas. That’s in legal trouble too. Meanwhile, some on the right have objected to media descriptions of those countries as “Muslim-majority” nations, which they say unfairly makes it look like the Trump administration is targeting Muslims.
Breitbart contributor John Hayward started out with this objection, then went on to reach a conclusion that it’s basically OK to target Muslims. “The fallback euphemism is to say that Trump is ‘banning’ immigration (they never say it is conditional and temporary) from several ‘Muslim-majority’ countries,” he wrote. “This is also misleading because those countries are not merely inhabited by a majority of Muslims. They are Muslim countries, period. They all have some form of Islamic law written into their legal codes. … The incorporation of Sharia law into the legal codes of these countries occurs to a degree that would revolt the American Left, if any religion except Islam was involved.”
Actually, many on both the left and the right, along with many Muslims, object to government based on strict Sharia law. And the oppressive nature of such government provides an argument for allowing immigration from these countries, not banning it.
“The governments of Libya, Syria, and Somalia punish homosexuality with prison, even up to 10 years,” OutRight International’s Jessica Stern wrote in The Advocate. “Sudan, Iran, and Yemen officially punish homosexuality with death. OutRight has documented more than 39 people killed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria for alleged homosexuality from 2014 to 2016 alone. By closing the doors to LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees, President Trump is effectively accepting the persecution and violence targeting this community and allowing some LGBTIQ people to die. He has joined the ranks of those who believe imprisoning and killing people for being LGBTIQ is permissible.”
We’ll be back next week with more nuggets from the far-right sites, as we read them so you don’t have to.